Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard changes game for Blazers with his defense

Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard defending Caris LeVert
USA Today

The Trail Blazers got what they needed Tuesday night in Indianapolis. Not only a win, but an emphatic one – 133-112 over the Pacers. A nice way to begin a critical, six-game road trip.

Portland ended its five-game losing streak with hot shooting from three-point range, an avalanche of rebounds and some better-than-their-average defense.

Not only that, Damian Lillard seemed to snap out of his April malaise, going 6-14 from the field, including 4-8 from three-point distance and scoring 23 points in 31:07.

He even gave his team a defensive boost on the Pacers’ Malcolm Brogdon that helped spark a big 40-16 third-quarter Portland advantage.

The Blazers made seven of their nine threes in the third quarter and the Pacers went 0-8. Brogdon was 0-5 overall and 0-4 from three in that period.

“Like I said the last game, I haven't been my best,” Lillard said. “I haven't been my best, offensively. But we just wanted to start this road trip off right, you know. And I know that there are a lot of ways that I can change the game for our team."

“You know there are a lot of ways that I can set the tone and put our team on the edge. Brogdon started the game with 14 points in the first quarter. And when I came back in the second quarter, I was like, ‘I got him.’

 

“We rearranged the matchups and I was like, ‘I got him’ and my intention was just to get into the ball. Just sell out on that end of the floor.

“They were short-handed tonight. They didn't have Sabonis, they didn't have Myles Turner, and it was Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon that, if it was going to be a disaster for us, it would have been those two doing it to us.

“So, I told CJ, you take Caris. I’m going to take Malcolm. We're going to set the tone of his trip off right. And we’re going to do it defensively, because if we do that against the shorthanded teams like tonight, we're going to run away with this game.”

It was a big improvement, but at the same time it came against a team without its best inside players – Sabonis and Turner.

And it showed, Portland outrebounded Indiana 57-38 and had a 21-9 edge in second-chance points.

Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter looked like giants playing against normal-sized humans. The two combined for 23 points and 24 rebounds.

And the best part about the win was, with a game Wednesday night at Memphis, the Trail Blazers needed to use the starters for just three quarters.

The big scorer for the evening was Anfernee Simons, of course, who nailed his first nine three-point shots en route to 27 points.

“We needed one like this,” Terry Stotts said. “We've had a tough stretch, obviously, and it was good to see some good shooting. We thought our defense picked up late in the second quarter and really in the third quarter, so it was a very positive night for us.”